REI Honors Top Vendor Partners of the Year

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Co-op awards Kühl top accolade; divisional winners are Hydro Flask, Osprey Packs and Chaco

Each day, leading outdoor retailer REI offers the top gear and apparel from more than 1,300 established and up-and-coming brands. To recognize those valued partners, REI named its 2015 Vendor Partner of the Year during the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market trade show. Kühl was presented with the annual Vendor Partner of the Year award, while Hydro Flask, Osprey Packs and Chaco were named divisional winners.

The Vendor Partner of the Year awards program was established by REI in 1993. Each year, companies are nominated by the co-op’s three merchandising divisions – Camp/Climb, Actionsports and Outdoorwear – for their efforts to build a strategic and successful relationship focused on meeting member and customer needs, and to bring quality, innovation, outdoor stewardship and performance to the industry. REI retail and merchandising employees vote on the slate of nominees.

“Kühl shines as an example of a valued, authentic vendor partner, with a laser-focus on outdoor specialty that has fueled its tremendous growth with REI this past year,” says Susan Viscon, REI’s senior vice president of merchandising and private brands. “Kühl goes the extra mile in product innovation, in supporting our in-season needs and for its employees. This award reflects genuine appreciation for their values and contributions to REI and the greater outdoor community.”

Vendor partner awards recipients are:

•Overall Vendor Partner of the Year: Kühl (Salt Lake City)
Born in the Mountains®, and is a product driven company combining exclusive fabrics and 3D engineering for timeless style and comfort. For independent, free thinking, Rebels, Renegades and Outlaws™.

•Camp/Climb division: Osprey Packs (Cortez, Colo.)
Independent, celebrating its 41st anniversary in 2015, and still anchored by the design genius and company founder/owner, Mike Pfotenhauer, Osprey Packs has long set the standard for creating innovative, high quality gear carrying equipment. Osprey’s collection includes packs and bags designed to help adventurers enjoy their outdoor, biking, active-everyday, and travel pursuits.

•Actionsports division: Hydro Flask (Bend, OR)
Hydro Flask is the award-winning global leader in high-performance, insulated stainless steel flasks. Founded in 2009 in beautiful Bend, Oregon, the company’s mission is to save the world from lukewarm. Using the highest quality 18/8 stainless steel, Hydro Flasks are stylish, BPA‐free, recyclable, and backed by a lifetime warranty. Hydro Flask strongly believes that great flasks and great causes go hand-in-hand. Through its charitable arm, 5% Back, consumers can allocate a portion of the net profit of their purchase to a charity of their choosing.

•Outdoorwear division: Chaco (Rockford, MI)
Born on the river in 1989, Chaco builds premium footwear for the outdoor-minded. As a result of the brand’s proprietary LUVSEAT™footbed, the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) has awarded the Seal of Acceptance to all Chaco footwear styles. The APMA Seal is intended to raise awareness by identifying products of exceptional quality that are manufactured with comfort, health, and safety in mind. Chaco is a part of Wolverine Worldwide's Performance Group, which also includes the notable lifestyle brands Merrell and Saucony.

Past recipients of the REI Vendor Partner of the Year Awards include Atlas Snowshoe (1999), Black Diamond Equipment (1994, 2006), Bell Sports (1997), Brooks (2012), CamelBak Products, LLC (2008), Cascade Designs (2001), Columbia Sportswear (1998), Eagle Creek (2000, 2005), Eagle Nest Outfitters (2014), Keen Footwear (2004), Kühl (2013), Osprey (2007), prAna (2003), Smith Optics (2002, 2009), Vasque (1995, 1996), Vibram (2010, 2011) and Yakima (1993).

About REI
REI is a specialty outdoor retailer, headquartered near Seattle. The nation’s largest consumer co-op, REI is a growing community of 5.5 million active members who expect and love the best quality gear, inspiring expert classes and trips, and outstanding customer service. REI has 143 stores in 35 states. If you can’t visit a store, you can shop at, or the free REI shopping app. REI isn’t just about gear. You can take the trip of a lifetime with REI Adventures, a global leader in active adventure travel that runs 150 custom-designed itineraries on every continent. REI’s Outdoor School is run by professionally-trained, expert-instructors who teach beginner- to advanced-level courses about a wide range of activities. To build on the infrastructure that makes life outside possible, REI invests millions annually in hundreds of local and national nonprofits that create access to–and steward–the outdoor places that inspire us.

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Courtney Gearhart
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